AN INVESTIGATION is to be held into how protected trees came to be felled in Christchurch last week.

Christchurch Borough Council announced yesterday that it would be looking into what happened at Druitt Gardens.

Four trees were cut down in the former nature reserve, which is being developed by Renaissance Retirement, despite the community successfully campaigning for tree preservation orders to be placed on them.

Councillors Margaret Phipps and Nick Geary will be leading the investigation and presenting the results at the council’s audit and scrutiny committee in March.

Cllr Phipps said: “This is a sensitive public issue and the involvement of the scrutiny committee will ensure there is full transparency regarding the issues being examined.”

The council said the decision to carry out the investigation was taken following a meeting convened by the leader of the council and aims to identify any required improvements to the council’s procedures.

However, Elliot Marx, who has spearheaded residents’ opposition to the tree felling, said that the investigation should be independent with each stage of the process thoroughly reviewed.

“Residents will be deeply dubious of any investigation undertaken by the council,” she said.

“I would like to see pictures of the damaged roots and know why this was allowed to happen on two consecutive days.

“The gardens have been so badly damaged by the council and no amount of replanting will help. It would take 20 years for it to recover.”

The investigation begins after tempers flared on Friday and the police were called following reports of a scuffle between a contractor and a resident.

Ms Marx added that 450 people in the area had written to the council opposing the felling of the trees.

‘Dead or decayed’ claim

THE council said a ‘master plan’ was developed for Druitt Gardens which went out to public consultation at the beginning of 2009.

A tree survey recommended the felling of 65 trees which were either dead, in decay or in a bad condition.

The council identified a further 25 trees, most of which were non-native, and recommended them to be felled to ‘improve the local character’ of the area. It added that more than 50 trees have been planted, predominantly saplings, and that a landscape plan will look to plant 30 more trees in the future.